New St. John School Board member, Rodney Nicholas, makes some waves

Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 15, 2011

By David Vitrano


EDGARD – The newest member of the St. John the Baptist Parish School Board, Rodney Nicholas, was sworn in Thursday.

Nicholas is the only new member of the board. He replaced Matthew Ory, who served on the board for 15 years before losing his seat during the fall elections.

In her address to the board members, Judge Madeline Jasmine, who handled swearing in duties along with Judge Jude Gravois, told the board members, “Your life is no longer your own.”

The board also chose new leadership at the meeting, which was held at West St. John High School.

Patrick Sanders was selected to be the board president for the next two years. Board member Russ Wise nominated Gerald Keller for the position, but when Sanders was nominated, Keller withdrew. Keller had served as board president since 2000.

Keller nominated Clarence Triche to be the board’s new vice president. There were no other nominations, so Triche was named vice president.

During the “items of interest” section of the meeting, Nicholas cited two statutes that he thought the district had violated in attempting to name Ronald Barrilleaux the new athletic director at East St. John High School.

At the last meeting of 2010, the administration attempted to place Barrilleaux in the position, but some board members, led by Albert Burl III, objected to the process.

“All I want is for this whole process to be open, transparent and fair,” said Burl.

Because the item was not on the agenda and a motion to waive policy failed, no further discussion on the matter was allowed, but Superintendent Courtney Millet agreed to meet with the Executive Committee next week to discuss the process.

Millet did note, however, that the position is not tenured and that the act involveS moving a current district employee into the position, so the situation is not governed by the statutes cited by Nicholas.

The district began to advertise for the position in December and is currently in the process of reviewing applications and screening applicants.

Also Thursday, Executive Director of Business and Finance Felix Boughton presented the board with the budget report for the second quarter.

He said the district’s spending is on track to come in well below initial projections, but he did have some bad news to deliver.

“Sales tax is low and getting lower,” he said.

Boughton also presented an item that would allow the district to accept proposals to get school property appraised.

He said new construction has made the administration realize the property is undervalued. He said it is currently valued at about $125 per square foot but said the number should be closer to $220 per square foot. Just raising the value, however, would raise the district’s property insurance premiums by about $400,000. Having the property freshly appraised may save the district some money on the premium, he said.

Lastly, Boughton introduced a new policy to the board that sets a fee schedule for the use of district property by outside groups and will prohibit the board from waiving these fees. In the past the board regularly has voted to waive these fees despite warnings from attorney Lloyd LeBlanc that to do so violates state law.